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Logistics Technology

That’s enough – the logistics industry needs to change.

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I know, its contentious, but I’ve said it. Logistics as an industry needs to change. I’ve met far too many businesses in this industry that are still using the processes and systems that were put in 20 years ago, that should have been replaced by something less manual. It’s not just the workers or revenue that suffers from repetitive and clunky fulfillment but the customer expects better, especially in an age where you can order something today, and track it all the way to your front door by tomorrow.

I don’t think it’s the big bucks

The reason for the lack of change? Well there’s a few, but it’s certainly not the lack of spend in the market. In 2018 US, companies spent $1.5 trillion on logistical expenses! That’s 8% of the entire US GDP*. In my opinion, the main reason for the lack of change is the concern on implementing modern systems, integrating them with back office processes and the disruption to the supply chain. It’s not like a business can stop for a few days to change systems and then deal with the consequences for up to months on end (I’ve seen this too). But what if there was a solution that could automate your processes to meet and exceed customer expectations, with no change to your processes, no interruption to your supply chain, no corrections needed downstream and with a cost of a few cents a document?

Here’s how you can automate and accelerate your freight invoice processing – a relatively simple but dramatic improvement to processes, using lite touch technology, without business interruption.

Freight invoice processing can be tedious and challenging, and often exacerbated by the dependence on OCR systems or manual keying data from an invoice. The struggle is real – its a labor intensive process and is prone to high error rates when capturing data. Everyone accepts this, recognizes that automating these processes is the key to improve processing times, maintaining customer satisfaction and to removing resource heavy processes from employees daily tasks.

Accurate, efficient and saving your time and money

If my comments in the paragraph above resonate then you should consider Universal Capture from CloudTrade.

We’ve expanded our technology stack and now provide a one-stop solution that automates the capture process for all types of freight invoices – digital files and image files and high or low volumes, with optimized accuracy.

It’s the only solution on the market, with a comprehensive rules engine, that can be tailored to your business’s exact requirements and it meshes perfectly with any ERP or TMS.

Send an email – is that it?

CloudTrade Universal Capture is the leading choice when it comes to capturing data as it removes the entry and engagement barriers of entry to use the solution – we guarantee high supplier adoption. All your customers need to do is send their Freight Invoice to a specific email address which CloudTrade sets up, then in the background we work our magic (well it’s science really, but that’s not quite as exciting), by capturing the data and validating it against your bespoke requirements using our world class rules engine. Then augmenting the data as required and submitting it into your systems automatically. If there is something amiss, its flagged before it enters the system, ensuring your business gets the right data every time 24 hours per day, 365 days per year – often processed and returned to you in minutes.

We know that accuracy is so important to our freight logistics customers because of the cost of rectifying mistakes downstream through the payment or audit process. Delivery failures, cost of returns and correcting volume or load board order errors is costly, and these days, unnecessary expense when the data is easy to capture.

All invoices are welcome!

The struggle for most businesses is trying to apply a ‘one-size fits all solution’ to their system or processes, even though invoices are received in different document types and volumes per supplier. With Universal capture, all invoice types and other documents are welcome, and the solution can be configured to handle a wide range of file types and sizes; when it comes to the processing of the data, we manage single page and multi-page document sets containing both data and images and separate these into single document sets to minimize human intervention and maximize data accuracy.

Universal Capture offers one inbound channel for all types of documents and can validate, sort and process those documents synchronously for organizations to upload into their TMS. Other types of documents are welcome too, from invoices to orders to carrier receipts to the large PDF invoice sets sent out by the larger carriers (we regularly process a 1500-page document into separate shipments for one of our customers).

But how is that actually possible?

So, we’ll let you in to our secret box of tricks. To get the job done, Universal Capture works by being versatile when processing data from different files. With high supplier invoice volumes, CloudTrade can guarantee 100% data accuracy by setting up a standard set of logic rules for data capture for that supplier. The data capture then follows the same rules for each invoice transmitted through CloudTrade, these rules are managed by CloudTrade support to maintain completely accurate data capture, even if the invoice design were to change.

Image files, while less commonly used, are still an important part of data capture and something that Universal Capture can process. Despite image files not containing a data layer (so characters are interpreted rather than extracted), CloudTrade can still offer accuracy levels of around 90%, as we use the same rules technology to check what we have captured – at the time of capture. If we can’t validate the captured data against your requirements, we will send it to our intervention portal where you can fix the problem and resubmit it for processing. Just to be clear some manual correction may be required with image files, but we can help with that to. We can set automated messaging encouraging the suppliers to submit digital files to help improve the accuracy of their data capture and we have found that most will do this if they can get their invoice paid faster!

Finally, for suppliers with low volumes of inbound invoices and documents, CloudTrade Universal Capture can use its learned experience from other invoice types to extract a generic set of the data. Once again, this will eliminate most of the human intervention that is typically required when it comes to processing documents.

Document automation during COVID

We know that these are uncertain times for businesses, but one thing is clear, the trucks will keep on rolling and goods still need to be moved quickly and reliably. In the midst of the current pandemic, human intervention in these processes has, for some organizations, been a challenge and in some cases, it was just not possible with a home-based workforce. The good news is that we were able to help. Our technology is delivered as SaaS, accessed via the web and our portal is accessible from all well-known browsers. We have been able to offer an enhanced service to our clients for their home based workers that guaranteed high capture rates and access to our intervention screens for any data capture or mapping issues – now if only you had known that 3 months ago!

With Universal Capture from CloudTrade, you could use just one solution for all inbound freight and other documents, with implementation in as little as two weeks. Within 15 mins, you can find out how we can help your business and we’ll prove our solution works.

Go on, book in 15 mins with us, it could be the first step to an automation reality.

The blog post was originally published on our Logistics specialist website, cloudtradelogistics.com

*Flock Freight (2018) For the Love of Logistics

RPA Technology

Robots don’t make mistakes – but data does!

Reading Time: 3 minutes
RPA Technology
RPA bots, don’t make mistakes if the instructions are correct.

There has been a huge amount written about the benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and probably as many column inches dedicated to the challenges and pitfalls. In this article and our upcoming webinar, we explore the role that data plays in all RPA projects and the impact that bad data has on the robots and the desired business outcome.

Whatever industry you work in, or in whichever interest you may have, you will almost certainly have come across a story about how “data” is changing the face of our world, particularly “big data”. You may have heard this term as part of a study helping to cure a disease, boost a company’s revenue, improve customer service, make a building more efficient or be responsible for those targeted ads we keep seeing.

But we don’t mean THAT “data”!

Despite what term is commonly used, data is simply another word for information. But in computing and business, data refers to information that is machine-readable as opposed to human-readable.

In business, we receive masses of data in human readable form such as contracts, invoices, orders  or HR records etc. These documents need to be converted to a machine-readable form so that technology, like RPA, can be used to automate the process end-to-end.

The challenge is to firstly have the creator of the document produce it in a digital format that is also human readable, so that further downstream this can be read, data extracted and passed to a robotic process for downstream automation. Data extraction can be achieved at 100% accuracy if produced in a digital format (if the format contains a text layer).

Images causing havoc

But, where the sender chooses to create an image file, you must rely on Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to convert the text to a machine-readable format. The problem with OCR is that as the receiver has no control over the image quality or how data is presented, the net result is you can never guarantee accuracy and it’s these data errors that cause havoc with the RPA process.

Ensuring the best data for your robots

To make sure your bots do not go awry, the first challenge is getting the sender to create a digital document. To do this, we need to remove any barriers, ensure there is no cost or resource requirement and ideally no process change for the sender. The second challenge is to remove paper or image files that require OCR.

Bad data, big problems

Let’s consider the consequences of bad data for a minute. The impact of misreading a measurement or value could mean an engine part is manufactured to the incorrect size or an order gets processed with the wrong amount, a -10 becomes 100 and so on. Data without context delivers a second layer of complexity, as ‘ea’ could be read as ‘each box’ and not ‘each unit’ etc. There is a clear and obvious need to not only read data accurately but also to understand the context of a data element.

Now consider these challenges at scale and the impact of such errors on ‘big data’ as more of the world’s business processes become digital and move online, the need to process data at scale accurately has never been more important.

RPA for business process automation

In the world of shared services, we have looked to deploy RPA in areas such as invoice and order processing to increase automation and drive efficiencies. Through the implementation of innovative technologies, such as RPA, the human task is rapidly moving from the mundane and repetitive to those of quality control and cognitive value creation. The theory is great, but the reality is that unless the right technology and business process is deployed to convert human readable documents to that of a machine readable format, the data for the RPA bots will always contain errors. You can read more about RPA integration and CloudTrade here.

Technology for data perfection

There is a solution to read digital documents and process that data into a format a machine can read to give bots the right tools for the job.

We’re running a webinar focusing on this integration for RPA, sign up is available here and will address how this proven approach works for RPA , provide a live demonstration of delivering 100% accurate data, and how to automate business processes that will eliminate human intervention.